Where is heaven?
Where is "heaven"? It’s hard to talk about "heaven" without giving the impression you believe it is some "place". Some of us tend to think that if you got into a rocket ship and went in the right direction long enough that you’d get there; though I suppose we settle for that only because we don’t know what else to think. Others of us who are pretty sure that it isn’t an address in this material universe are a bit more sophisticated and think that we sort of step out of some "door" into a parallel universe. I suppose there might be something to that as long as it isn’t the same kind of universe as this one; that is, another material universe where God is supposed to be located.
Wherever heaven is, it’s where God is. But it’s that word "is" that generates our difficulties. God certainly "is" in the sense that he "exists" and that requires us to think he "is" somewhere. I mean, he cannot "be" nowhere, can he? If there is absolutely nowhere that God is then he is nowhere—he doesn’t exist. But if he exists "somewhere" then he takes up some space, doesn’t he? Or does he? [All this shows that we can't speak of God without placing him "somewhere" and "somewhere" is a spatial term so that won't work when speaking of God.]
It isn’t possible for us to exist in this world without taking up space; that’s the nature of humanity. Each of us takes up space, which implies that there must be space to take up. We as "physical" beings exist in a "physical" universe. If there were no physical universe then we physical beings would have no place to "be".
But God can and does exist as "spirit" (John 4:24, whatever that means exactly). The scriptures suggest that to be "a" spirit is to be without flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). God can and does exist as "spirit" (not "a" spirit) without needing a physical environment in which to exist because he is not a physical being.
I’m now sure it would be better to think of spirit as a kind of being that implies a way of existing rather than as a "substance" that needs "space" in which to exist. God then "exists" in a way completely different from us, in a "spaceless" mode. So that we should be thinking not of a "place" at all but a mode of being. We’re accustomed to calling this world or earth a "place" and since it is not "nowhere" then it certainly is a place. We say of humans that they are "earthly," that is, of the earth, they belong to the earth, they exist on earth. Maybe when the Bible speaks of God dwelling in heaven it is telling us (at least expressing the truth as best it can) that God is "unearthly," that he is heavenly and is not bound to physical space, that he is a different order of being. Maybe it isn’t telling us where he is but what he is to distinguish him from us.
The one thing we can be sure of is this: Heaven, the "place" where God "resides", is not a part of the physical creation. It's all right to point skyward and speak of "heaven" as long as we don't mean that space and outer-space is heaven. To point skyward enables us to say that heaven is "beyond our world". Our world not just a "place" where we exist—it's a setting that determines the kind of existence that is ours.
All this is a bit too much for all of us but we’re not to forget that we have difficulties conceptualizing many things—it isn’t just issues about God that are difficult. "Where" are memories? is a difficult question to phrase much less answer. It's clear that the brain is connected with their existence but what are they "made of" and where do they lie. You can poke an area of the brain and generate a memory but what exactly does that mean? Oh well. Some things are true and real without our being able to explain them at present.
So, "where is heaven?" is probably the wrong way to put the question though we're stuck with it due to our limitations. "What does it mean that there is 'heaven'?" may be a more fruitful line to follow.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.